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1.  The Role of Targeted Agents in the Treatment of Metastatic Breast Cancer 
Breast Care  2010;5(3):134-141.
To date, blockade of growth factor receptors is the mainstay of targeted therapy in metastatic breast cancer (mBC). Monoclonal antibodies such as trastuzumab and bevacizumab represent the first generation of molecular-based therapies. Both the HER2 inhibitors and the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) antagonists have shown synergism with a broad spectrum of established cytotoxins, thus being approved for first-line treatment of mBC in combination with taxanes. As a next step, tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have been integrated into daily routine as an alternative approach for targeting HER2: The dual HER1/2 inhibitor lapatinib demonstrated activity in trastuzumab-pretreated mBC patients in combination with capecitabine. Furthermore, chemotherapy-free regimens (trastuzumab or lapatinib plus aromatase inhibitors) have been identified as additional options for hormone receptor (HR)- and HER2-positive patients. Recently published data indicate that a combination of two biologicals such as lapatinib and trastuzumab can be effective as a treatment beyond trastuzumab related progression. Multitarget TKIs have the potential to inhibit several signaling pathways involved in breast cancer-related angiogenesis. Until now, they have failed to show a clear benefit in mBC. On the other hand, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibition, mediated by a new class of small molecules, is an interesting area of investigation. Future directions of research in HER2-positive breast cancer focus on the evaluation of novel antibodies (pertuzumab, T-DM1), and irreversible TKIs (neratinib, BIBW 2992) and inhibitors of HER2-related downstream signaling (mTOR, TORC 1/2, PI3K/Akt) and of receptor cross-talk (IGFR).
PMCID: PMC2931051  PMID: 20847826
Breast cancer, metastatic; Anti-angiogenesis; Antibody; PARP inhibition; Multitargeting
2.  Targeting Signal Transduction Pathways in Metastatic Breast Cancer: A Comprehensive Review 
The Oncologist  2010;15(3):216-235.
This review summarizes some of the key signaling pathways involved in tumor progression and some of the novel therapies that are in development for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer patients.
Greater understanding of the underlying etiology and biology of breast cancer is enabling the clinical development of targeted therapies for metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Following the successful introduction of trastuzumab, the first human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER) biologically targeted therapy to become widely used in MBC patients, other agents have been developed. Novel agents include monoclonal antibodies such as pertuzumab, which bind to receptors on the cell surface, and tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) such as lapatinib, which target intracellular pathways such as that of the epidermal growth factor receptor. There is also growing clinical experience with antiangiogenic agents, particularly in combination with chemotherapy. These include the monoclonal antibody bevacizumab, which targets vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, and multitargeted TKIs with antiangiogenic and antiproliferative activities, such as sunitinib. Combination treatment with multiple agents targeting both the HER family and angiogenic pathways (e.g., trastuzumab plus bevacizumab) is also showing activity in the clinical setting. Despite recent advances, there are unanswered questions regarding the management of MBC with targeted agents. Future studies are necessary to determine the optimal combinations, doses, and schedules required to maximize clinical activity while minimizing toxicity. Despite the temptation to use a targeted agent in all patients, identification of patient subgroups most likely to benefit must be a key goal and will be critical to the successful future use of these treatments. The aim of this review is to summarize some of the key signaling pathways involved in tumor progression and some of the novel therapies that are in development for MBC.
PMCID: PMC3227950  PMID: 20200040
Human epidermal growth factor receptor; Metastatic breast cancer; Signaling pathways; Vascular endothelial growth factor; Tyrosine kinase inhibitors
3.  Recent advances in the development of anti-HER2 antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates 
Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-targeted therapies have revolutionized the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer, both in the metastatic and early stage settings. While trastuzumab and lapatinib had been the mainstays of treatment in combination with chemotherapy, innate and acquired resistance to these therapies occur. More recently, two additional HER2-directed therapies have been approved for HER2-positive breast cancer. Pertuzumab is a humanized monoclonal antibody that binds to the extracellular portion of the receptor on a domain distinct from the binding site of trastuzumab. The addition of pertuzumab to trastuzumab results in synergistic tumor cell inhibition and has been shown to significantly improve clinical outcomes for patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer (MBC) compared to trastuzumab plus chemotherapy alone. In addition, ado-trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1), a novel antibody-drug conjugate linking trastuzumab with the cytotoxic maytansinoid, DM1, is an effective treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer that has progressed on other HER2-directed therapies. Both pertuzumab and T-DM1 are relatively well tolerated. This review presents the mechanisms of action as well as phase I, II and III clinical data describing the safety and efficacy of pertuzumab and T-DM1 for HER2-positive breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4260046  PMID: 25568875
Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2); breast cancer; antibody-drug conjugate; pertuzumab; T-DM1
4.  HER2-positive male breast cancer: an update 
Although rare, male breast cancer (MBC) remains a substantial cause for morbidity and mortality in men. Based on age frequency distribution, age-specific incidence rate pattern, and prognostic factor profiles, MBC is considered similar to postmenopausal breast cancer (BC). Compared with female BC (FBC), MBC cases are more often hormonal receptor (estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor [ER/PR]) positive and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) negative. Treatment of MBC patients follows the same indications as female postmenopausal with surgery, systemic therapy, and radiotherapy. To date, ER/PR and HER2 status provides baseline predictive information used in selecting optimal adjuvant/neoadjuvant therapy and in the selection of therapy for recurrent or metastatic disease. HER2 represents a very interesting molecular target and a number of compounds (trastuzumab [Herceptin®; F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Basel, Switzerland] and lapatinib [Tykerb®, GlaxoSmithKline, London, UK]) are currently under clinical evaluation. Particularly, trastuzumab, a monoclonal antibody which selectively binds the extracellular domain of HER2, has become an important therapeutic agent for women with HER2-positive (HER2+) BC. Currently, data regarding the use of trastuzumab in MBC patients is limited and only few case reports exist. In all cases, MBC patients received trastuzumab concomitantly with other drugs and no severe toxicity above grade 3 was observed. However, MBC patients that would be candidate for trastuzumab therapy (ie, HER2+/ER+ or HER2+/ER− MBCs) represent only a very small percentage of MBC cases. This is noteworthy, when taking into account that trastuzumab is an important and expensive component of systemic BC therapy. Since there is no data supporting the fact that response to therapy is different for men or women, we concluded that systemic therapy in MBC should be considered on the same basis as for FBC. Particularly in male patients, trastuzumab should be considered exclusively for advanced disease or high-risk HER2+ early BCs. On the other hand, lapatinib (Tykerb), a novel oral dual tyrosine kinase inhibitor that targets both HER2 and epidermal growth factor receptor, may represent an interesting and promising therapeutic agent for trastuzumab-resistant MBC patients.
PMCID: PMC3846466  PMID: 24367166
target therapy; trastuzumab; lapatinib
5.  Role of pertuzumab in the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer 
Pertuzumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody to the HER2 receptor, represents a promising new anti-HER2 agent with a novel mechanism of action targeting the inhibition of HER2 dimerization. Nonclinical and clinical data to date indicate that pertuzumab provides a broader HER2 blockade through the inhibition of HER2 heterodimerization. In preclinical experiments, pertuzumab has demonstrated superior antitumor effects when combined with other anti-HER2 treatments such as trastuzumab, compared to when used as monotherapy. Trastuzumab and pertuzumab monoclonal antibodies bind to distinct epitopes on the HER2 receptor without competing with each other, resulting in distinctive mechanisms for disrupting HER2 signaling. These mechanisms are complementary and result in augmented therapeutic efficacy when pertuzumab and trastuzumab are given in combination. Clinically, pertuzumab may have optimal therapeutic effects when given to patients with HER2-positive cancers, in combination with trastuzumab. This observation is supported by recent clinical trials in the metastatic as well as neoadjuvant setting. Intravenous pertuzumab had an acceptable tolerability profile when added to trastuzumab and chemotherapy. This overview will review recent advances in the clinical development of this HER2-targeted therapy.
PMCID: PMC3846374  PMID: 24367194
HER2; breast cancer; pertuzumab; trastuzumab
6.  New developments in the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer 
Approximately 20%–30% of metastatic breast cancers show increased expression of the human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) tyrosine kinase. Two HER2-specific therapies are currently approved for clinical treatment of patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer. Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody against HER2 and is approved for first-line treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. Lapatinib is a small molecule dual inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptor and HER2 tyrosine kinases, and is approved for trastuzumab-refractory disease. Although trastuzumab is a highly effective therapy for patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer, a significant number of patients in the initial clinical trials of trastuzumab monotherapy showed resistance to trastuzumab-based therapy. Further, among those who did respond, the initial trials indicated that the median time to progression was less than 1 year. Similarly, lapatinib is effective in a subset of trastuzumab-refractory cases, but the majority of patients display resistance. This review discusses the multiple molecular mechanisms of resistance that have been proposed in the literature. In addition, novel agents that are being tested for efficacy against HER2-positive breast cancer, including the antibodies pertuzumab and trastuzumab-DM1 and the immunotoxin affitoxin, are reviewed. The introduction of trastuzumab has revolutionized the clinical care of patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer and has resulted in dramatic reductions in recurrences of early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer. The development and implementation of gene- and protein-based assays that measure potential molecular predictors of trastuzumab resistance will allow individualization of HER2-targeted therapeutic approaches, and may ultimately improve treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3712518  PMID: 23869176
ErbB2; Herceptin; trastuzumab; drug resistance; neratinib; lapatinib; affitoxin
7.  New developments in the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer 
Approximately 20%–30% of metastatic breast cancers show increased expression of the human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) tyrosine kinase. Two HER2-specific therapies are currently approved for clinical treatment of patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer. Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody against HER2 and is approved for first-line treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. Lapatinib is a small molecule dual inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptor and HER2 tyrosine kinases, and is approved for trastuzumab-refractory disease. Although trastuzumab is a highly effective therapy for patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer, a significant number of patients in the initial clinical trials of trastuzumab monotherapy showed resistance to trastuzumab-based therapy. Further, among those who did respond, the initial trials indicated that the median time to progression was less than 1 year. Similarly, lapatinib is effective in a subset of trastuzumab-refractory cases, but the majority of patients display resistance. This review discusses the multiple molecular mechanisms of resistance that have been proposed in the literature. In addition, novel agents that are being tested for efficacy against HER2-positive breast cancer, including the antibodies pertuzumab and trastuzumab-DM1 and the immunotoxin affitoxin, are reviewed. The introduction of trastuzumab has revolutionized the clinical care of patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer and has resulted in dramatic reductions in recurrences of early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer. The development and implementation of gene- and protein-based assays that measure potential molecular predictors of trastuzumab resistance will allow individualization of HER2-targeted therapeutic approaches, and may ultimately improve treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3712518  PMID: 23869176
ErbB2; Herceptin; trastuzumab; drug resistance; neratinib; lapatinib; affitoxin
8.  HER2 Dimerization Inhibitor Pertuzumab – Mode of Action and Clinical Data in Breast Cancer 
Breast Care  2013;8(1):49-55.
The humanized monoclonal antibody pertuzumab prevents the dimerization of HER2 with other HER receptors, in particular the pairing of the most potent signaling heterodimer HER2/HER3, thus providing a potent strategy for dual HER2 inhibition. It binds to the extracellular domain of HER2 at a different epitope than trastuzumab. Pertuzumab and trastuzumab act in a complementary fashion and provide a more complete blockade of HER2-mediated signal transduction than either agent alone. Phase II studies demonstrated that pertuzumab was generally well tolerated as a single agent or in combination with trastuzumab and/or cytotoxic agents, and implied an improved clinical efficacy of the combination of pertuzumab and trastuzumab in early and advanced HER2-positive breast cancer. Results of the pivotal phase III study CLEOPATRA in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer demonstrated that the addition of pertuzumab to first-line combination therapy with docetaxel and trastuzumab significantly prolonged progression-free and overall survival without increasing cardiac toxicity. Currently, the combination of both antibodies is being explored in the palliative setting as well as in the treatment of early HER2-positive breast cancer. Dual HER2 inhibition with the HER2 dimerization inhibitor pertuzumab and trastuzumab may change clinical practice in HER2-positive first-line metastatic breast cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC3971793  PMID: 24715843
HER2-positive; Dual inhibition; Breast cancer, metastatic; Pertuzumab; Trastuzumab
9.  The role of her2-targeted therapies in women with her2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer 
Current Oncology  2009;16(4):25-35.
The role of targeted therapies in the treatment of women with breast cancer has been rapidly evolving. Trastuzumab, a monoclonal antibody against the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (her2), was the first her2-targeted therapy that clearly demonstrated a significant clinical benefit for women with her2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer (mbc). However, in recent years it has become increasingly apparent that, when trastuzumab is used in the first-line setting in combination with chemotherapy, most women eventually develop progressive disease. Determining the treatment options available to women who have progressed while on trastuzumab therapy has been hampered by a paucity of high-quality published data. In addition, with the standard use of trastuzumab in the adjuvant setting (for eligible her2-positive patients), the role of anti-her2 agents for patients who experience a breast cancer relapse has become a clinically relevant question. This manuscript reviews current available data and outlines suggestions from a panel of Canadian oncologists about the use of trastuzumab and other her2-targeted agents in two key mbc indications:
Treatment for women with her2-positive mbc progressing on trastuzumab (that is, treatment beyond progression)Treatment for women with her2-positive mbc recurring following adjuvant trastuzumab (that is, re-treatment)
The suggestions set out here will continue to evolve as data and future trials with trastuzumab and other her2-targeted agents emerge.
PMCID: PMC2722050  PMID: 19672422
Metastatic breast cancer; trastuzumab; treatment beyond progression; re-treatment; her2-targeted therapy
10.  Precision medicine and personalized breast cancer: combination pertuzumab therapy 
Trastuzumab (Herceptin), a monoclonal antibody directed against the human epidermal growth-factor receptor 2 (HER2), is the poster child for antibody-based targeted therapy in breast cancer. Pertuzumab, another humanized monoclonal antibody, binds to a different domain of HER2 and prevents the formation of HER2:HER3 dimers, which is the most potent heterodimer in the HER family. The combination of trastuzumab and pertuzumab has synergistic activity, and is associated with improved clinical outcomes. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved pertuzumab in combination with trastuzumab-based chemotherapy originally as first-line therapy for metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer in 2012, and more recently as neoadjuvant therapy for localized disease in 2013. Pertuzumab is the first neoadjuvant drug to receive accelerated approval by the FDA based on pathological complete response as the primary end point. In this article, we review the mechanism of action, pharmacokinetics, clinical efficacy, safety, and current role of pertuzumab in the management of breast cancer, as well as ongoing clinical trials and future directions regarding the utility of pertuzumab as a personalized therapeutic option for HER2-positive breast cancer. In the coming years, we anticipate increased utilization of neoadjuvant trials for drug development, biomarker discovery, and validation, and envision conduct of personalized breast cancer clinics in which therapies will be routinely selected based on genetic alterations in the tumor. Regardless of the targeted therapy combinations employed based on tumor genomic profile, trastuzumab and pertuzumab will likely continue to form the backbone of the personalized regimen for HER2-positive breast cancer.
Video abstract
PMCID: PMC3977457  PMID: 24715764
pertuzumab; HER2 breast cancer; personalized therapy; precision medicine
11.  A Phase II study of bevacizumab in combination with trastuzumab and docetaxel in HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer 
Investigational new drugs  2014;32(6):1285-1294.
Preclinical and early clinical data support the use of Vascular Epithelial Growth Factor (VEGF)-targeted therapy with trastuzumab in Human Epidermal Receptor 2 (HER2) positive breast cancer. Adding bevacizumab to a taxane (docetaxel or paclitaxel) improves progression free survival (PFS) of metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients.
We evaluated the efficacy and feasibility of combining bevacizumab with trastuzumab and docetaxel in patients with HER2- positive MBC who received 0–1 prior chemotherapy regimens for metastatic disease. The primary end point was PFS.
Materials and Methods
Eligible patients received bevacizumab (15 mg/kg), trastuzumab (8 mg/kg loading dose followed by 6 mg/kg), and docetaxel (100 mg/m2 initially, later amended to 75 mg/m2) every three weeks for six cycles and then were allowed to receive bevacizumab and trastuzumab alone.
Thirteen (50 %) of 26 patients enrolled completed all 6 cycles of bevacizumab, trastuzumab and docetaxel and went on to receive bevacizumab and trastuzumab alone (median: 11 cycles). The most common grade 3 or 4 toxicities include: neutropenia (8 %), septic death (4 %), infection not associated with neutropenia (15 %), fatigue (27 %), mylagia and/or arthraligia (20 %), and hand-foot syndrome (8 %). One patient (4 %) and six patients (23 %) developed grade 3 and grade 2 hypertension, respectively. Two (8 %) patients had transient grade 2 drop in Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction (LVEF) with full recovery later. The median progression free survival (PFS) was 14.3 months (95 % CI: 9.3–35 months), the objective response rate (ORR), defined as the best response of complete response (CR) or partial response (PR) was (12/26) 46 %. The clinical benefit rate (CBR), defined as the best response of CR or PR or stable disease (SD) for at least 24 weeks, was (18/26) 69 % (95 % CI: 48–86 %).
The combination of bevacizumab, trastuzumab and docetaxel is well tolerated and is clinically active in patients with HER2-positive MBC, with response rate and PFS comparable to previous reports utilizing higher dose of docetaxel (100 mg/m2). Recent randomized trials did not demonstrate additional overall survival (OS) benefit of adding bevacizumab to trastuzumab and docetaxel despite an improvement in PFS. Identification of predictive biomarkers and careful patient selection should be incorporated in further investigation of anti-VEGF in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4303337  PMID: 24894652
Bevacizumab; Trastuzumab; Docetaxel; Metastatic breast cancer; HER2
12.  Functional Imaging of HER2-Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer Using 64Cu-DOTA-Trastuzumab Positron Emission Tomography 
Women with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive breast cancer are candidates for treatment with the anti-HER2 antibody trastuzumab. Assessment of HER2 status in recurrent disease is usually made by core needle biopsy of a single lesion which may not be representative of the larger tumor mass or other sites of disease. Our long-range goal is to develop positron emission tomography (PET) of radiolabeled trastuzumab for systemically assessing tumor HER2 expression and identifying appropriate use of anti-HER2 therapies. The purpose of this study was to evaluate PET-CT of 64Cu-DOTA-trastuzumab for detecting and measuring tumor uptake of trastuzumab in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer.
Eight women with biopsy-confirmed HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer and no anti-HER2 therapy for ≥ 4 mo underwent complete staging, including 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)/PET-CT. For 6 of the 8 patients, 64Cu-DOTA-trastuzumab injection (364-512 MBq, 5 mg trastuzumab) was preceded by trastuzumab infusion (45 mg). PET-CT (PET scan duration 1 h) was performed 21-25 (“Day 1”) and 47-49 (“Day 2”) h after 64Cu-DOTA-trastuzumab injection. Scan fields of view were chosen based on 18F-FDG/PET-CT. Lesions visualized relative to adjacent tissue on PET were considered PET-positive; analysis was limited to lesions identifiable on CT. Radiolabel uptake in prominent lesions was measured as maximum single-voxel standardized uptake value (SUVmax).
Liver uptake of 64Cu was reduced approximately 75% with the 45 mg trastuzumab pre-dose, without significant effect on tumor uptake. The study included 89 CT-positive lesions; detection sensitivity was 77, 89 and 93% for Day 1, Day 2 and 18F-FDG, respectively. On average, tumor uptake was similar for 64Cu-DOTA-trastuzumab and 18F-FDG [SUVmax (mean, range): Day 1 (8.1, 3.0-22.5, n=48); Day 2 (8.9, 0.9-28.9, n=38); 18F-FDG (9.7, 3.3-25.4, n=56)], but the extent of same-lesion uptake was not correlated between the 2 radiotracers. No toxicities were observed, and estimated radiation dose from 64Cu-DOTA-trastuzumab was similar to 18F-FDG.
64Cu-DOTA-trastuzumab visualizes HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer with high sensitivity, and is effective in surveying disseminated disease. A 45 mg trastuzumab pre-dose provides a 64Cu-DOTA-trastuzumab biodistribution favorable for tumor imaging. 64Cu-DOTA-trastuzumab/PET-CT warrants further evaluation for assessing tumor HER2 expression and measuring delivery of trastuzumab-based therapy.
PMCID: PMC4084518  PMID: 24337604
64Cu-labeled trastuzumab; HER2; breast cancer
13.  Profiling and targeting HER2-positive breast cancer using trastuzumab emtansine 
This article reviews the mechanism of action of trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1), existing clinical data relating to its use for human growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive breast cancer, potential pathways of resistance, and ongoing studies evaluating this novel agent.
The development of HER2-targeted therapies has dramatically improved clinical outcomes for patients with any stage of HER2-positive breast cancer. Although the positive effect of these treatments cannot be overstated, treatment resistance develops in the vast majority of those diagnosed with stage IV HER2-positive breast cancer. Moreover, HER2-directed therapies are most effective when combined with cytotoxic chemotherapy. The need for chemotherapy leads to significant adverse effects and a clear decrease in quality of life for those dealing with a chronic incurable disease. T-DM1 is a recently developed, novel antibody–drug conjugate in which highly potent maytanisinoid chemotherapy is stably linked to the HER2-targeted monoclonal antibody, trastuzumab.
Preclinical and phase 1–3 clinical data support the significant antitumor activity of T-DM1. Importantly, several randomized studies also now demonstrate its clear superiority in terms of tolerability compared with standard chemotherapy-containing regimens. Its role in the treatment of trastuzumab-resistant metastatic breast cancer has now been established on the basis of the results of two phase 3 randomized studies, EMILIA (An Open-label Study of Trastuzumab Emtansine (T-DM1) vs Capecitabine + Lapatinib in Patients With HER2-positive Locally Advanced or Metastatic Breast Cancer) and TH3RESA (A Study of Trastuzumab Emtansine in Comparison With Treatment of Physician’s Choice in Patients With HER2-positive Breast Cancer Who Have Received at Least Two Prior Regimens of HER2-directed Therapy). The most common toxicities seen with T-DM1 are thrombocytopenia and an elevation in liver transaminases. Significant cardiac toxicity has not been demonstrated. Both in vitro cell line–based studies as well as exploratory analyses of archived tumor samples from the clinical trials are seeking to understand potential mechanisms of resistance to T-DM1. Ongoing studies are also evaluating the use of T-DM1 in the first-line metastatic, neoadjuvant, and adjuvant settings, as well as in combination with other targeted therapies.
T-DM1 represents the first successfully developed antibody drug conjugate for the treatment of HER2-positive advanced breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4207068  PMID: 25378946
HER2; T-DM1; trastuzumab emtansine; ado-trastuzumab emtansine; metastatic breast cancer; Kadcyla
14.  Synergistic activity of ixabepilone plus other anticancer agents: preclinical and clinical evidence 
Ixabepilone demonstrates marked synergistic activity in combination with capecitabine, which served as the rationale for the evaluation of this combination in the clinic. Ixabepilone plus capecitabine is currently approved for patients with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer (MBC) progressing after treatment with an anthracycline and a taxane; approval was based on the results of two phase III trials comparing the combination with capecitabine monotherapy. An array of preclinical studies in multiple solid tumor types show that ixabepilone demonstrates therapeutic synergy with targeted therapies including trastuzumab, bevacizumab, brivanib, and cetuximab; with immune-modulating agents such as anti-CTLA-4 antibody; and with other chemotherapy drugs such as irinotecan and epirubicin. Notably, experiments in several xenograft models show that ixabepilone provides greater antitumor synergism when combined with bevacizumab than either paclitaxel or nab-paclitaxel combined with bevacizumab. These preclinical findings provide a foundation for ongoing phase II clinical trials using ixabepilone in combination with trastuzumab or lapatinib in HER2-positive breast cancer; with bevacizumab in breast cancer, endometrial cancer, renal cancer, and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC); with cetuximab in breast cancer, NSCLC, and pancreatic cancer; and with brivanib, dasatinib, sorafinib, sunitinib, or vorinostat in MBC. Preliminary results from several of these trials suggest that ixabepilone-based combinations have promising anticancer activity.
PMCID: PMC3126033  PMID: 21789152
breast cancer; colon cancer; epothilones; ixabepilone; non-small cell lung cancer; synergism; targeted therapy
15.  Adjuvant trastuzumab in the treatment of her-2-positive early breast cancer: a meta-analysis of published randomized trials 
BMC Cancer  2007;7:153.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the U.S. and Western Europe. Amplification of the her-2/neu gene occurs in approximately 25% of invasive ductal carcinomas of the breast. The first HER-2/neu-targeted approach to reach the clinic was trastuzumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody directed against the extracellular domain of the HER-2/neu protein. Trastuzumab therapy prolongs the survival of patients with metastático HER-2/neu-overexpressing breast cancer when combined with chemotherapy and has recently been demonstrated to lead to dramatic improvements in disease-free survival when used in the adjuvant therapy setting in combination with or following chemotherapy. Here, we performed a meta-analysis of completed clinical trials of adjuvant trastuzumab in the adjuvant setting. Survival, recurrence, brain metastases, cardiotoxicity and directions for future research are discussed.
A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCT) was performed comparing adjuvant trastuzumab treatment for HER2-positive early breast cancer (EBC) to observation. The MEDLINE, EMBASE, CANCERLIT and Cochrane Library databases, and abstracts published in the annual proceedings were systematically searched for evidence. Relevant reports were reviewed by two reviewers independently and the references from these reports were searched for additional trials, using guidelines set by QUOROM statement criteria.
Pooled results from that five randomized trials of adjuvant Trastuzumab showed a significant reduction of mortality (p < 0.00001), recurrence (p < 0.00001), metastases rates (p < 0.00001) and second tumors other than breast cancer (p = 0.007) as compared to no adjuvant Trastuzumab patients. There were more grade III or IV cardiac toxicity after trastuzumab (203/4555 = 4.5%) versus no trastuzumab (86/4562 = 1.8%). The likelihood of cardiac toxicity was 2.45-fold higher (95% CI 1.89 – 3.16) in trastuzumab arms, however that result was associated with heterogeneity. The likelihood of brain metastases was 1.82-fold higher (95% CI 1.16 – 2.85) in patients who received trastuzumab.
The results from this meta-analysis are sufficiently compelling to consider 1 year of adjuvant trastuzumab treatment for women with HER-2-positive EBC based on the risk: benefit ratio demonstrated in these studies. Adequate assessment of HER-2/neu status is critical, and careful cardiac monitoring is warranted because of cardiac toxicity. Clinical trials should be designed to answer unsolved questions.
PMCID: PMC1959236  PMID: 17686164
16.  HER2-amplified breast cancer: mechanisms of trastuzumab resistance and novel targeted therapies 
HER2 amplification is seen in up to 20% of breast cancers and is associated with an aggressive phenotype. Trastuzumab, a monoclonal antibody to HER2, accrues significant clinical benefit in the metastatic and adjuvant settings. However, some patients suffer disease recurrence despite adjuvant trastuzumab therapy, and many patients with metastatic disease do not respond to therapy or develop refractory disease within 1 year of treatment. Given the increased recognition of de novo and acquired resistance to therapy, considerable research has been dedicated to understanding the molecular mechanisms of trastuzumab resistance. Here, we highlight putative models of resistance, including activation of the downstream PI3K-signaling pathway, accumulation of a constitutively active form of HER2, and crosstalk of HER2 with other growth factor receptors. The identification of these specific mechanisms of trastuzumab resistance has provided a rationale for the development of several novel HER2-targeted agents as the mechanisms have largely suggested a continued tumor dependence on HER2 signaling. We explore the emerging data for the treatment of trastuzumab-refractory disease with novel agents including lapatinib, neratinib, pertuzumab, trastuzumab-DM1, HSP90 and PI3K pathway inhibitors, and the future potential for these inhibitors which, if combined with reliable biomarkers of resistance, may ultimately usher in a new era of personalized medicine for this disease.
PMCID: PMC3092522  PMID: 21342044
17-AAG; breast cancer; HER2; lapatinib; p95-HER2; pertuzumab; resistance; targeted therapy; trastuzumab
17.  Basal/HER2 breast carcinomas 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(2):225-245.
High rates of inherent primary resistance to the humanized monoclonal antibody trastuzumab (Herceptin) are frequent among HER2 gene-amplified breast carcinomas in both metastatic and adjuvant settings. The clinical efficacy of trastuzumab is highly correlated with its ability to specifically and efficiently target HER2-driven populations of breast cancer stem cells (CSCs). Intriguingly, many of the possible mechanisms by which cancer cells escape trastuzumab involve many of the same biomarkers that have been implicated in the biology of CS-like tumor-initiating cells. In the traditional, one-way hierarchy of CSCs in which all cancer cells descend from special self-renewing CSCs, HER2-positive CSCs can occur solely by self-renewal. Therefore, by targeting CSC self-renewal and resistance, trastuzumab is expected to induce tumor shrinkage and further reduce breast cancer recurrence rates when used alongside traditional therapies. In a new, alternate model, more differentiated non-stem cancer cells can revert to trastuzumab-refractory, CS-like cells via the activation of intrinsic or microenvironmental paths-to-stemness, such as the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Alternatively, stochastic transitions of trastuzumab-responsive CSCs might also give rise to non-CSC cellular states that lack major attributes of CSCs and, therefore, can remain “hidden” from trastuzumab activity. Here, we hypothesize that a better understanding of the CSC/non-CSC social structure within HER2-overexpressing breast carcinomas is critical for trastuzumab-based treatment decisions in the clinic. First, we decipher the biological significance of CSC features and the EMT on the molecular effects and efficacy of trastuzumab in HER2-positive breast cancer cells. Second, we reinterpret the genetic heterogeneity that differentiates trastuzumab-responders from non-responders in terms of CSC cellular states. Finally, we propose that novel predictive approaches aimed at better forecasting early tumor responses to trastuzumab should identify biological determinants that causally underlie the intrinsic flexibility of HER2-positive CSCs to “enter” into or “exit” from trastuzumab-sensitive states. An accurate integration of CSC cellular states and EMT-related biomarkers with the currently available breast cancer molecular taxonomy may significantly improve our ability to make a priori decisions about whether patients belonging to HER2 subtypes differentially enriched with a “mesenchymal transition signature” (e.g., luminal/HER2 vs. basal/HER2) would distinctly benefit from trastuzumab-based therapy ab initio.
PMCID: PMC3575452  PMID: 23255137
basal-like; cancer stem cells; EMT; HER2; trastuzumab; breast cancer; reprogramming
18.  Trastuzumab-DM1: A Clinical Update of the Novel Antibody-Drug Conjugate for HER2-Overexpressing Breast Cancer 
Molecular Medicine  2012;18(1):1473-1479.
Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody targeted against the HER2 tyrosine kinase receptor. Although trastuzumab is a very active agent in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer, the majority of patients with metastatic HER2-overexpressing breast cancer who initially respond to trastuzumab develop resistance within 1 year of initiation of treatment and, in the adjuvant setting, progress despite trastuzumab-based therapy. The antibody-drug conjugate trastuzumab-DM1 (T-DM1) was designed to combine the biological activity of trastuzumab with the targeted delivery of a highly potent antimicrotubule agent, DM1 (N-methyl-N-[3-mercapto-1-oxopropyl]-l-alanine ester of maytansinol), a maytansine derivative, to HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells. T-DM1 is the first antibody-drug conjugate with a nonreducible thioether linker in clinical trials. Phase I and II clinical trials of T-DM1 as a single agent and in combination with paclitaxel, docetaxel and pertuzumab have shown clinical activity and a favorable safety profile in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. Two randomized phase III trials of T-DM1 are awaiting final results; the EMILIA trial is evaluating T-DM1 compared with lapatinib plus capecitabine, and early positive results have been reported. The MARIANNE trial is evaluating T-DM1 plus placebo versus T-DM1 plus pertuzumab versus trastuzumab plus a taxane. Here, we summarize evidence from clinical studies and discuss the potential clinical implications of T-DM1.
PMCID: PMC3563710  PMID: 23196784
19.  Novel anti-HER2 monoclonal antibodies: synergy and antagonism with tumor necrosis factor-α 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:450.
One-third of breast cancers display amplifications of the ERBB2 gene encoding the HER2 kinase receptor. Trastuzumab, a humanized antibody directed against an epitope on subdomain IV of the extracellular domain of HER2 is used for therapy of HER2-overexpressing mammary tumors. However, many tumors are either natively resistant or acquire resistance against Trastuzumab. Antibodies directed to different epitopes on the extracellular domain of HER2 are promising candidates for replacement or combinatorial therapy. For example, Pertuzumab that binds to subdomain II of HER2 extracellular domain and inhibits receptor dimerization is under clinical trial. Alternative antibodies directed to novel HER2 epitopes may serve as additional tools for breast cancer therapy. Our aim was to generate novel anti-HER2 monoclonal antibodies inhibiting the growth of breast cancer cells, either alone or in combination with tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α).
Mice were immunized against SK-BR-3 cells and recombinant HER2 extracellular domain protein to produce monoclonal antibodies. Anti-HER2 antibodies were characterized with breast cancer cell lines using immunofluorescence, flow cytometry, immunoprecipitation, western blot techniques. Antibody epitopes were localized using plasmids encoding recombinant HER2 protein variants. Antibodies, either alone or in combination with TNF-α, were tested for their effects on breast cancer cell proliferation.
We produced five new anti-HER2 monoclonal antibodies, all directed against conformational epitope or epitopes restricted to the native form of the extracellular domain. When tested alone, some antibodies inhibited modestly but significantly the growth of SK-BR-3, BT-474 and MDA-MB-361 cells displaying ERBB2 amplification. They had no detectable effect on MCF-7 and T47D cells lacking ERBB2 amplification. When tested in combination with TNF-α, antibodies acted synergistically on SK-BR-3 cells, but antagonistically on BT-474 cells. A representative anti-HER2 antibody inhibited Akt and ERK1/2 phosphorylation leading to cyclin D1 accumulation and growth arrest in SK-BR-3 cells, independently from TNF-α.
Novel antibodies against extracellular domain of HER2 may serve as potent anti-cancer bioactive molecules. Cell-dependent synergy and antagonism between anti-HER2 antibodies and TNF-α provide evidence for a complex interplay between HER2 and TNF-α signaling pathways. Such complexity may drastically affect the outcome of HER2-directed therapeutic interventions.
PMCID: PMC3517359  PMID: 23033967
HER2; ERBB2; TNF-α; Monoclonal Antibodies; Epitope Mapping; Growth Inhibition; Breast Cancer; Synergy; Antagonism
20.  Dual blockade of HER2 in HER2-overexpressing tumor cells does not completely eliminate HER3 function 
Dual blockade of HER2 with trastuzumab with lapatinib or with pertuzumab is a superior treatment approach compared to single agent HER2 inhibitors. However, many HER2-overexpressing breast cancers still escape from this combinatorial approach. Inhibition of HER2 and downstream phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K)/AKT causes a transcriptional and post-translational upregulation of HER3 which, in turn, counteracts the antitumor action of the HER2-directed therapies. We hypothesized that suppression of HER3 would synergize with dual blockade of HER2 in breast cancer cells sensitive and refractory to HER2 antagonists.
Experimental Design
Inhibition of HER2/HER3 in HER2+ breast cancer cell lines was evaluated by western blot. We analyzed drug-induced apoptosis and 2- and 3-dimensional growth in vitro. Growth inhibition of PI3K was examined in vivo in xenografts treated with combinations of trastuzumab, lapatinib, and the HER3 neutralizing monoclonal antibody U3-1287.
Treatment with U3-1287 blocked the upregulation of total and phosphorylated HER3 that followed treatment with lapatinib and trastuzumab and, in turn, enhanced the anti-tumor action of the combination against trastuzumab-sensitive and -resistant cells. Mice bearing HER2+ xenografts treated with lapatinib, trastuzumab, and U3-1287 exhibited fewer recurrences and better survival compared to mice treated with lapatinib and trastuzumab.
Dual blockade of HER2 with trastuzumab and lapatinib does not eliminate the compensatory upregulation of HER3. Therapeutic inhibitors of HER3 should be considered as part of multi-drug combinations aimed at completely and rapidly disabling the HER2 network in HER2-overexpressing breast cancers.
PMCID: PMC3563762  PMID: 23224399
HER2; HER3; lapatinib; trastuzumab; breast cancer
21.  Targeting breast cancer stem cells with HER2-specific antibodies and natural killer cells 
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide. Every year, nearly 1.4 million new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed, and about 450.000 women die of the disease. Approximately 15-25% of breast cancer cases exhibit increased quantities of the trans-membrane receptor tyrosine kinase human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) on the tumor cell surface. Previous studies showed that blockade of this HER2 proto-oncogene with the antibody trastuzumab substantially improved the overall survival of patients with this aggressive type of breast cancer. Recruitment of natural killer (NK) cells and subsequent induction of antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) contributed to this beneficial effect. We hypothesized that antibody binding to HER2-positive breast cancer cells and thus ADCC might be further improved by synergistically applying two different HER2-specific antibodies, trastuzumab and pertuzumab. We found that tumor cell killing via ADCC was increased when the combination of trastuzumab, pertuzumab, and NK cells was applied to HER2-positive breast cancer cells, as compared to the extent of ADCC induced by a single antibody. Furthermore, a subset of CD44highCD24lowHER2low cells, which possessed characteristics of cancer stem cells, could be targeted more efficiently by the combination of two HER2-specific antibodies compared to the efficiency of one antibody. These in vitro results demonstrated the immunotherapeutic benefit achieved by the combined application of trastuzumab and pertuzumab. These findings are consistent with the positive results of the clinical studies, CLEOPATRA and NEOSPHERE, conducted with patients that had HER2-positive breast cancer. Compared to a single antibody treatment, the combined application of trastuzumab and pertuzumab showed a stronger ADCC effect and improved the targeting of breast cancer stem cells.
PMCID: PMC3623839  PMID: 23593542
Trastuzumab; pertuzumab; ADCC; tumor stem cells; breast cancer
22.  Trastuzumab has preferential activity against breast cancers driven by HER2 homodimers 
Cancer research  2011;71(5):1871-1882.
In breast cancer cells with HER2 gene amplification, HER2 receptors exist on the cell surface as monomers, homodimers and heterodimers with EGFR/HER3. The therapeutic antibody trastuzumab, an approved therapy for HER2+ breast cancer, cannot block ligand-induced HER2 heterodimers, suggesting it cannot effectively inhibit HER2 signaling. Hence, HER2 oligomeric states may predict the odds of a clinical response to trastuzumab in HER2-driven tumors. To test this hypothesis, we generated non-transformed human MCF10A mammary epithelial cells stably expressing a chimeric HER2-FKBP molecule that could be conditionally induced to homodimerize by adding the FKBP ligand AP1510, or instead induced to heterodimerize with EGFR or HER3 by adding the heterodimer ligands EGF/TGFα or heregulin. AP1510, EGF, and heregulin each induced growth of MCF10A cells expressing HER2-FKBP. As expected, trastuzumab inhibited homodimer-mediated but not heterodimer-mediated cell growth. In contrast, the HER2 antibody pertuzumab, which blocks HER2 heterodimerization, inhibited growth induced by heregulin but not AP1510. Lastly, HER2/EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib blocked both homodimer- and heterodimer-induced growth. AP1510 triggered phosphorylation of Erk1/2 but not AKT, whereas trastuzumab inhibited AP1510-induced Erk1/2 phosphorylation and Shc-HER2 homodimer binding, but not TGFα-induced AKT phosphorylation. Consistent with these observations, high levels of HER2 homodimers correlated with longer time to progression following trastuzumab therapy in a cohort of HER2-overexpressing patients. Together, our findings corroborate the hypothesis that HER2 oligomeric states regulate HER2 signaling, also arguing that trastuzumab sensitivity of homodimers reflects an inability to activate the PI3K/AKT pathway. One of the most important clinical implications of our results is that high levels of HER2 homodimers may predict a positive response to trastuzumab.
PMCID: PMC3221734  PMID: 21324925
Trastuzumab; HER2; receptor dimerization; breast cancer; ErbB network
23.  Role of trastuzumab emtansine in the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer 
Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody that is used in the treatment of breast cancer. Trastuzumab targets the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) receptor on breast cancer cells that express this tyrosine kinase receptor. These cancers are referred to as HER2-positive breast cancer. The original studies of trastuzumab showed improved survival in metastatic breast cancer; however, resistance often develops. In the adjuvant setting, women often progress despite therapy that includes trastuzumab. Antibody–drug conjugates are a new class of powerful drugs designed to target high-dose chemotherapy directly to the cancer cells. Trastuzumab emtansine is one of these antibody–drug conjugates and was the first Food and Drug Administration approved drug for a solid tumor. Emtansine is a potent antimicrotubule agent. Trastuzumab is used to target this potent chemotherapy agent directly to the HER2-expressing cancer cells. This review article will summarize the evidence from the preclinical studies, summarize evidence from the clinical trials, discuss current clinical trials, discuss current approval of trastuzumab emtansine, and discuss future directions of research.
PMCID: PMC4112743  PMID: 25114588
T-DM1; trastuzumab emtansine; Kadcyla®; breast cancer; HER2
24.  Combined blockade of HER2 and VEGF exerts greater growth inhibition of HER2-overexpressing gastric cancer xenografts than individual blockade 
Gastric cancer overexpressing the human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2) protein has a poor outcome, although a combination of chemotherapy and the anti-HER2 antibody trastuzumab has been approved for the treatment of advanced gastric cancer. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression in gastric cancer is correlated with recurrence and poor prognosis; however, the anti-VEGF antibody bevacizumab has shown limited efficacy against gastric cancer in clinical trials. In this study, we evaluated the antitumor effects of trastuzumab; VEGF-Trap binding to VEGF-A, VEGF-B and placental growth factor (PlGF); and a combination of trastuzumab and VEGF-Trap in a gastric cancer xenograft model. Although trastuzumab and VEGF-Trap each moderately inhibited tumor growth, the combination of these agents exerted greater inhibition compared with either agent alone. Immunohistochemical analyses indicated that the reduction in tumor growth was associated with decreased proliferation and increased apoptosis of tumor cells and decreased tumor vascular density. The combined treatment resulted in fewer proliferating tumor cells, more apoptotic cells and reduced tumor vascular density compared with treatment with trastuzumab or VEGF-Trap alone, indicating that trastuzumab and VEGF-Trap had additive inhibitory effects on the tumor growth and angiogenesis of the gastric cancer xenografts. These data suggest that trastuzumab in combination with VEGF-Trap may represent an effective approach to treating HER2-overexpressing gastric cancer.
PMCID: PMC3849567  PMID: 24176949
combination treatment; gastric cancer; HER2; trastuzumab; VEGF-Trap
25.  Molecular Mechanisms of Trastuzumab-Based Treatment in HER2-Overexpressing Breast Cancer 
ISRN Oncology  2012;2012:428062.
The past decade of research into HER2-overexpressing breast cancer has provided significant insight into the mechanisms by which HER2 signaling drives tumor progression, as well as potential mechanisms by which cancer cells escape the anticancer activity of HER2-targeted therapy. Many of these preclinical findings have been translated into clinical development, resulting in novel combinations of HER2-targeted therapies and combinations of trastuzumab plus inhibitors of resistance pathways. In this paper, we will discuss proposed mechanisms of trastuzumab resistance, including epitope masking, cross signaling from other cell surface receptors, hyperactive downstream signaling, and failure to induce antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity. In addition, we will discuss the molecular mechanisms of action of dual HER2 inhibition, specifically the combination of trastuzumab plus lapatinib or trastuzumab with pertuzumab. We will also discuss data supporting therapeutic combinations of trastuzumab with agents targeted against molecules implicated in trastuzumab resistance. The roles of insulin-like growth factor-I receptor and the estrogen receptor are discussed in the context of resistance to HER2-targeted therapies. Finally, we will examine the major issues that need to be addressed in order to translate these combinations from the bench to the clinic, including the need to establish relevant biomarkers to select for those patients who are most likely to benefit from a particular drug combination.
PMCID: PMC3512309  PMID: 23227361

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